Dark Rooms by Lili Anolik


Dark Rooms tries to be a Gillian Flynn novel. I understand the appeal, for a while there every thriller published wanted to be Gone Girl. Amolik seems to be going for more of a Dark Places vibe, which is a far worse crime, as Dark Places is probably Flynn’s best novel. Flynn achieves gritty realism in an almost subtle way that keeps it from feeling over the top. Amolik flamboyantly creates quite the opposite, her atmosphere dense with exorbitant plot points ranging from incest to – hold onto your butts – the protagonist developing a romantic relationship with her known rapist. 

16-year-old Nica Baker is found murdered; the crime is seemingly solved when a boy at her prep school hangs himself and leaves a pretty damning suicide note behind. Nica’s sister, Grace, just doesn’t buy it, and after dropping out of college and picking up a job at said prep school, she devotes her time to solving the murder. She enlists the help of her sister’s former boy toy who, it turns out, raped Grace at a party over the summer, which Grace attended dressed as her dead sister. This guy is obviously good boyfriend material, so the two pursue a sexual relationship. Unbeknownst to the rapist, though, Grace is already pregnant with his baby from that rape. Grace does not yet know he is the baby daddy, but after she figures it out SHE FORGIVES HIM AND ULTIMATELY MOVES IN WITH HIM. It gets better. SPOILERS AHEAD because I really can’t help myself. Actually, there were quite a few spoilers up until this point. Sorry, but really, I’m saving you time and money that would have been otherwise lost if you had actually indulged in this train wreck.

Boy toy was Nica’s rebound guy after she broke up with the love of her life, Jamie. As Grace digs deeper into her family’s secrets, she learns that Nica dumped Jamie because they were HALF SIBLINGS. Grace’s dad was not Nica’s dad. Also, Nica’s mom, a photographer, had developed something of an obsession with Nica, to the point that she photographed her daughter doing nefarious acts without the girl’s knowledge. As if that wasn’t enough, when receiving news that Nica was severely hurt if not dead, she BROUGHT HER CAMERA and actually photographed the corpse prior to calling an ambulance. She goes on to earn acclaim from a show in which that particular photograph is her centerpiece. I feel like there must be some sort of law out there that prevents financial gain from photographing one’s own dead child? Regardless, ick. Just ick.

Dark Rooms was too much ick to be believable. Instead of being shocked by all of these ominous secrets coming to light, I found myself laughing that Anolik was able to pile so many tabooed scenarios into one novel. Every time I thought it couldn’t get more ridiculous, it actually did. For that reason, I might not entirely discredit the book – Anolik has pulled off something considerably impressive, if not impressive for any good reasons. If you are going to read Dark Rooms, read Dark Places first. That makes the former all the more entertaining. Just read Dark Places, I already told you everything you need to know about Dark Rooms.

danamccall